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Erdogan: Afrin operation to complete in very short time

President addresses massive crowd in western city of Bursa before ruling AK Party's Women Branch congress

Erdogan: Afrin operation to complete in very short time

By Sarp Ozer and Mumin Altas

BURSA, Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday afternoon said the ongoing Operation Olive Branch in northwestern Afrin region of Syria will be completed "in very short time".

Addressing a massive crowd in western city of Bursa before ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's Women Branch congress, Erdogan said "hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time."

The president also criticized opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which called on people to take to the streets and protest against the military operation in Afrin.

"Nobody should take this call seriously... They will pay the heavy price," Erdogan said. "This is a national struggle. We would crush anybody who opposes this. There will be no compromises or tolerance on this issue."

On Sunday, there were reports that HDP's lawmaker from southeastern Van province Nadir Yildirim called on local people to hit the streets against the operation.

"We were saying 'one night, we can arrive suddenly' for the past 15 days," Erdogan said. "We waited, waited and did that. We have much more things to do."

Turkish President also highlighted that Afrin's population consists of 55 percent of Arabs, 35 percent of Kurdish people who were inhabited and 6-7 percent of Syrian Turkmen people.

"Now the aim is to deliver Afrin to its true owners. What is our aim? We have 3.5 million Syrian people in our lands. We aim to send them back to their countries," he said.

The operation -- aimed at eliminating PYD/PKK and Daesh elements from Syria's Afrin -- was launched at 5 p.m. (GMT1400) on Saturday. It was being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council’s decisions, self-defense rights under the UN charter and respect to Syria's territorial integrity, according to the military.

Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012 when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without putting up a fight.

The Turkish cities of Kilis and Hatay across the Syrian border are within the firing range of the PYD/PKK group from Afrin, which sits atop a hill. The terror group has also used Amanos Mountains to penetrate from Syria into Turkey.

The PYD/PKK depends on Afrin to connect to the Mediterranean from northwestern Syria. The terrorist organization has also threatened the gains made from Operations Euphrates Shield and Idlib de-escalation zone over Afrin. A quarter of Syria land and 65 percent of Turkey-Syria border are currently under occupation of the terrorist organization.

Operation Euphrates Shield began in August 2016 and ended in late March 2017 to improve security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border.

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